'iGlobal' Conference: Tech must act as a great equaliser for the future of education

'iGlobal' Conference: Tech must act as a great equaliser for the future of education

The education industry in the UK has undergone a dramatic make-over since the pandemic hit earlier this year. With virtual teaching and EdTech platforms playing a predominant role, the first-ever ‘iGlobal’ Conference decided to explore the long-term impact on a tech-led revolution in education.

Specially curated by Indian Young Professional’s Network London, and hosted by Journalist Sonali Shah, the panel brought together Andrew Powell, Founder, Infinity Global, Joysy John, EdTech advisor, and innovator, Rajay Naik, CEO, Skilled Education, and Abhi Arya, Co-founder and partner, Sandbox.

Acceleration drive

EdTech advisor and innovator John believes that the pandemic has significantly accelerated the education system.

She says, “The pandemic has done in the last eight months, what a lot of EdTech innovators have been trying to do for the last 20 years.

“With schools, colleges and universities locked down, everyone has had to adapt to technology and learn remotely. What this has meant is on the one hand you have got an accelerated pace of adoption, personalisation of learning tools, and a huge amount of content. But on the other hand, we’ve seen some of the inequalities that exist in society come to the fore.”

These inequalities include access to space, facilities, environment, and attainment, which John notes has meant that the attainment gap has widened as high as 75 per cent in some areas.

“So whilst there’s been a lot of positives, there is some area to be worked on to improve things for everyone,” she explains.

Blended learning

CEO of Skilled Foundation, Naik offers a somewhat different perspective. He says, “If you think about globalisation, the move towards tech, blended learning and the huge growing middle classes in Asia and Africa who are going to try and access higher-level skills and education – all of this is simply an accelerant of what was already going on in December 2019; it is only moving us ahead maybe five years sooner than we would have already got there.”

He believes the right support and infrastructure must be in place for students, teachers, and academics who have faced massive disruption and challenges in the last few months.

Addressing inequalities

Founder of Infinity Global, Powell, runs a social impact business with the focus on levelling the playing field for disadvantaged inner-city talent to be able to access vocational education and careers of choice.

He says, “The schooling of the future has to be driven by the government and policy in a much more flexible medium – the ability to offer flexible learning to different parts of the population and hierarchy system. Putting physical devices in the hands of everybody regardless of social standing, educational background, and geographic location.”

Mental health implications

Furthermore, the mental health implications of the lockdown and school closures have also had an adverse effect on students. A Covid-19 summer survey conducted by the Young Minds charity revealed more than 90 per cent of the respondents have had their mental health impacted in mild, moderate, or severe ways.

John adds: “It's severe because many young people don’t have the access. Even if they do, it’s the motivation to get online and continue learning, because they don’t have that structure that was there in a school environment.

We ran a survey over the summer to understand the impact, 98 per cent of teachers said that students have been anxious and uncertain about their future choices.”

Arya, co-founder, and partner, Sandbox, believes that when creating content, entrepreneurs need to take the new environment into account and factor in the changing paradigms of education.

“In terms of access, it clearly has shown that for people with less access to either technology or money to buy the technology – schools are critical.”

Positives of EdTech

On the positives of what technology has provided, the panel was broadly agreed on several aspects.

“We are now seeing a shift in mindset. If we can put internet as the fourth utility into every single household and cheap mobile devices in the hands of every single young child, with access to the amazing curriculum, systems, and ecosystems – we can change the world for the better,” says Powell

Naik add: “Covid will yield long-term changes for two big reasons. The first being that this is truly global and secondly, the reality is, this is with us for a year or more, so we have to get used to the fact this is going to shift a whole load of ways we operate”

“We have to recognise education as being that orchestra that has to play in different ways, and therefore have to encourage our younger people as well as the elders – we’ve got to think of new ways of how we are going to be relevant.”

*For similar sessions from the ‘iGlobal’ Conference, explore here

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